Environmental and Energy Law – Counseling, Compliance and Litigation

Houston Harbaugh’s environmental and energy attorneys in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have decades of experience representing industrial concerns, waste management companies, energy companies, municipal authorities, and individuals in matters regarding state and federal statutes and regulations and local ordinances governing solid waste, hazardous waste, natural resource damages, water pollution, air pollution sources, storage tanks, water allocation, wetlands and real estate development.

We assist clients in navigating these regulatory standards to obtain required permits, achieve compliance, investigate and remediate contaminated sites, negotiate the resolution of disputes with government agencies and affected persons, and implement environmental auditing principles. When necessary, we represent our clients in litigation in both federal and state courts and before administrative quasi-judicial tribunals in actions involving permits, enforcement, civil penalties, cost recovery and disputes between successive landowners regarding solid and hazardous waste, environmental cleanup, natural resource damages, water pollution, leaking underground storage tanks, coal mining and gas production.

When real estate transactions involve contaminated and recycled industrial sites, we assist clients in utilizing the state’s land recycling statute and regulations to negotiate a deal, and counsel clients on appropriate due diligence and investigation of site conditions.

Enforcement of Environmental Regulations

Our attorneys have a wealth of experience assisting clients in addressing enforcement actions initiated by agencies such as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Our litigation experience spans four decades reaching back to the early days of environmental enforcement.

We assist clients in each step of the enforcement process, including formulating the initial response to the alleged violations and negotiating with environmental regulators. We are well versed in the unique challenges presented by appeals of agency actions before administrative adjudicatory bodies due to their very specialized nature and procedural rules. Our goal is to obtain the best result for our clients when faced with imposed compliance obligations and financial penalties resulting from alleged violations. As part of our synergistic approach to challenges faced by our clients, we provide advice on proactive strategies to avoid violations utilizing self-auditing measures.

Hazardous Sites Remediation and Superfund

We counsel clients on the programs and tools available to achieve a cost-effective resolution to matters involving contaminated sites. Our experience includes assisting clients in resolving exposures resulting from the releases of hazardous substances, including migration of contaminants in surface and groundwaters, leaking underground storage tanks, and emissions of air pollutants. We have represented clients seeking damages due to the contamination of their property as well as clients who are defending against claims for damages due to the release of pollutants. Our clients represent the full range of entities involved in environmental matters, including public and private corporations, small to medium sized family businesses, municipal authorities and individuals.

A significant portion of our practice over the years has included the representation of clients facing potential liability at large Superfund (CERLCA) sites, including those involving claims for natural resource damages. These matters can involve early resolution, alternate dispute resolution and full blown litigation. Our goal is to work closely with our clients to resolve their liability risk in the most efficient and productive manner.

Insurance and other risk transfer mechanisms can be an important part of an entity’s risk management strategies. We assist clients in evaluating available insurance and risk transfer mechanisms as appropriate for their business activities.

Environmental Permitting and Compliance

Obtaining necessary permits and maintaining compliance with those permits are essential to the success of a regulated entity. We advise clients on the regulations and permitting obligations that apply to their activities and facilities to maintain compliance. This can be an ongoing process as permits must be timely renewed and modified to reflect changes in operations. As part of this process, we work with the in-house engineers of our clients and outside consultants to provide guidance on the permitting process.

Obtaining required permits should be followed by the implementation of processes to ensure compliance with the terms of those permits. We advise clients on strategies for tracking compliance with permit obligations. With compliance issues, it is best to be “one step ahead” by proactively structuring internal environmental compliance strategies such as audits.

Real Estate Transactions Involving Contaminated Property

Buying or selling contaminated properties can be a complex process involving multiple considerations both financial and practical. Our attorneys have experience in counseling both buyers and sellers on assessing the environmental risks involved in these transactions and employing strategies to enhance the prospects for a deal to be consummated. When our clients consider redeveloping a property, we provide advice on available risk management tools and governmental incentives that can prove beneficial.

Both buyers and sellers of contaminated or potentially contaminated property may be involved in the performance of environmental due diligence activities intended to determine the nature and extent of any contamination of the property. We work with our clients on issues relating to the allocation of responsibility for contamination found to exist. We are experienced in drafting and reviewing purchase and sale documents to ensure that our clients’ interests are appropriately protected.


  • Representing a remediation contractor in a multi-party, multi-faceted litigation arising from a fly ash land slide that impacted a residential neighborhood.
  • Representing a waste and recycled oil recovery transporter in Superfund litigation arising out of the cleanup of a waste oil recovery facility.
  • The representation of a waste disposal company in various regulatory and permitting matters, including litigation arising out of permitting and civil penalty actions.
  • The representation of a major chemical manufacturer concerning several hazardous disposal sites where its waste was disposed by a transporter.
  • The representation of a municipal water company in an action against the owners and operators of several industrial facilities located near the water company’s water supply wells for damages caused by groundwater contamination by industrial solvents.
  • The representation of a generator of listed hazardous wastes in an action brought by the owner of the disposal company which accepted them for delivery to and disposal at the disposal company’s landfill. The action, which was brought under the federal and state Superfund laws as well as Pennsylvania common law, sought several million dollars in the estimated costs involved in closing the landfill in compliance with Pennsylvania hazardous waste disposal area regulations.
  • The representation of a hazardous waste disposal company which transported industrial wastes to a municipal landfill, in an action brought by the United States Environmental Protection Agency seeking to compel generators and transporters of industrial wastes to finance the estimated $50 million closure of the landfill.
  • The representation of a municipal operator of a sewage collection and treatment system in multifaceted litigation arising out of the alleged contamination of farmland from cadmium contained in sewage sludge used as a fertilizer and soil conditioner on the land.
  • The representation of a coal mining company in an appeal of a compliance order directing the treatment or abatement of a large polluting groundwater discharge emanating from the ground approximately 200 yards off the mine site.
  • The representation of a large real estate development company in an action against the state environmental protection agency and a local municipality challenging a construction ban imposed by DER as a result of the municipality’s failure to enact a sewage facilities plan acceptable to DER.
  • The representation of a municipal drinking water authority involving contamination of the public water supply with MTBE.
  • The representation of the operator of a POTW in a civil penalty action initiated by EPA under the Clean Water Act for alleged failure to enforce pre-treatment standards.